Cocktails with Nick : Espresso Martini

Good evening Birmingham.

What we are about to discuss is an important recipe. This is the secret drink that keeps bartenders wired and energized on even the toughest days.

You need the following equipment:

  • A martini glass
  • A cocktail shaker
  • An Espresso maker


  • Good vodka
  • Espresso coffee

That's all.

Firstly, you need espresso coffee.  Make it in a proper espresso maker and allow it to cool.  Accept no substitute.  If you use Nescafé, we can't be friends.

Take the shaker and add five large chunks of ice.  Add 60ml of vodka and the same amount of coffee.  Shake well until condensation appears on the outside of the shaker.

Strain it into the martini glass and serve.

One sip is like doing the ice bucket challenge. But some nights, it is exactly what you need.  Trust me on this.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. #ChefsTable


Cocktails with Nick: Mojito

Hello  Brummies, is it five o'clock yet?

Fresh out of Havana comes one of my all-time favourites.  The Mojito has a unique flavour, sweet and fresh, yet deep and mellow at the same time.  It is rum based, and everyone has their favourite.  I like Morgan's Spiced Rum, as it has a kick, and the spices add layers to the flavour.

So you start with a nice thick based glass.  You also need a muddler stick.  If you don't have one, just use the end of a rolling pin.  And a bar spoon.  Right, that's the kit.

For the ingredients you need:

  • Rum.  I recommend Appleton’s, Havana Club or Morgan's Spiced.  Bacardi, at a stretch.
  • Sticky brown sugar, nice and dark.
  • Fresh mint, nice big leaves
  • Fresh limes
  • Ice for crushing
  • A mixer, such as 7up or sugar syrup

Take a nice, wide, thick-based glass and, using the bar spoon, add a spoonful of brown sugar.  The darker and stickier, the better.  Add four or five large mint leaves. Carefully crush the mint into the sugar, this releases the flavour.  Cut a lime into wedges and add three to the glass.  Now crush them in too.

Add the rum, and we are talking 50ml as a bare minimum.  Make it 70ml, what the hell.  And stir well.

Take some ice cubes and crush them into tiny little pieces.  Pour them into the glass.  Decorate the edge of the glass with a wedge of lime placed over the ice and a few mint leaves arranged in a fan shape around the edge.

Enjoy, amigos. Hasta Manana

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. #ChefsTable


Cocktails with Nick

Bonjour Brummies I am hanging up the apron for the month, and switching the cookers off. It is time for me to dig out my best shirt, pants and bow tie.  In the back bedroom there is a case of cocktail kit and some very dusty bottles. I've scrubbed them all down to present Nick's guide to running a bar for a party.

First of all, you need a bar. But really all you need is a clothed table, and possibly a shelf behind, depending on what you have got. You need a bucket of ice, glassware, and a few tools of the trade.  Oh, and booze.  Lots and lots of boozy booze and mixers too.

Let's start with cocktail shakers. They normally come in two types.  First, the three-part shaker, which is mostly old school and there is the two-part shaker, that requires at least one separate strainer. To use a three-part shaker, stick the cap on the top half, add ice to the base, and add the top half.  Now to shake a cocktail, place one hand firmly on the top, and one hand on the base, and shake firmly into the shoulder.  Not over it.  And never hold the shaker by the sides, it will fly open and cause a godawful mess.  I have seen this happen at competition level.  After the one shake, the shaker will now be nice and cold, covered in condensation, and ready to go.

So what kind of kit does a bar need?  In the photo you will see some examples.  Tongs for ice and lemon, bar spoons for stirring and adding ingredients such as sugar. Notice how the stems spiral?  That isn't just funky design - they are used to liquors to trickle down when you are making layered cocktails such as the B-52.  The flat-headed wooden thing is a muddler, used for making Mojitos or muddled drinks where you squish down soft fruit, limes or mint.

The little grater is a zester, this is used to extract the lemon zest from the skin.  It is also used for spices such as nutmeg that get added to some milky cocktails.  The fruit knife is always small, preferably very sharp.  Blunt ones just cause more accidents as they can slip easily.

Next to it is a bar zester, another handy bit of kit.  When someone asks for a Martini with a twist, they mean a strip of lemon zest that you cut with the side of the zester, very carefully.  Then they place it in the Martini glass and send it over to Mr Bond's table.

On the far right is a small strainer, to prevent bits of pulp falling from the shaker into your drink.  The one pictured is not, in fact, a very good example.  You really need a strainer like a small sieve.

At the bottom is one of the most important pieces of kit.  To a barman or waiter, this is the most important piece of kit.  The waiter's friend.  The little knife at the front is for cutting through foil on bottles, the lever at the other end is for latching on to bottle edges and the corkscrew drills into the soft cork.  Pull back against the anchored lever and the cork will come out nice and smoothly.  And you look much cooler.  The last thing you need are bar towels or small lint-free towels.

You don't need all this kit, all the time, but it helps, trust me.


Big fruity cocktails should come in nice big sturdy glasses that hold out well and smaller, tall drinks come in half pint glasses. Built drinks, such as Mojitos or a White Russian come in shallow, wide, and thick based glasses usually used for whisky.  They are wide so you get to appreciate the vapours of the whisky.

The triangular glass near the back is, of course, the Martini glass, immortalised by one Mr J Bond.  Of course it was around a long time before he appeared on screen.

Next to it is a slightly more rounded wide cup.  This is a coupe, used mainly for Margaritas.  It is no coincidence that they always seem to be plastic.

On the far right is a latte glass.  Now an important safety tip is that warm drinks such as Irish coffee or mulled wine should only be served in these glasses.  They have a handle and are made from very thick glass that does not shatter when exposed to sudden heat.

For every cold drink, you need ice.  Either nice big pieces or well and truly crushed.  For that, you will need an ice crusher.  If you do not possess one, use a blender or wrap your ice in a clean towel and beat it with a rolling-pin.  It never fails.

As well as spirits and liquors, you'll stock juices, mixers and other herbs, such as cloves and mint.  For mixers, go for things like coke, ginger ale or lemonade.  For juices, orange is always the best bet. Pineapple is very sweet, but when shaken, it gives a lovely frothy head to a drink.  Grapefruit is very bitter but it gives a hell of a kick. Tomato is best served with just spirits on its own.

For fruit, you don't need the full fruit salad, Del-boy style, just cut a lemon or lime wedge or a full slice of orange.  Less is more. The photo also shows an egg and these are used raw, although I don't recommend it. Egg yolks atop vodka and tomato makes a hell of a hangover cure (apparently).

The last thing you need is a few bar decorations. A good bar ought to have a personal touch, be it a few ornaments, flags or small games. Put a full orange in a pint glass of water. Ask people to balance a coin on top of the orange, to see if they can.  You will soon pay off your mortgage.

So this is a good start in what a bar needs. Not all of them, not all the time, it depends on what kind of party you are planning. Next week we get into the serious business of mixing the cocktails. Have your spare liver standing by.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. #ChefsTable


New Years Eve Cocktails

New Year's Eve is a big night in everyone's calendar, but some of us are left without plans after neglecting it for the whole of December whilst Christmas occupies our every thought. Cue a bottle of wine, pjs and the NYE countdown show to kick off the New Year! It sure is nice to have a quiet one sometimes but this year, why not pop out just to try some tantalising cocktails at one of Birmingham's best bars?
Ginger's Bar at Purnell’s Bistro is a glamorous, lively bar serving up quirky and original cocktails inspired by the 1930s. I love the sound of their Pink Panther cocktail - Blueberry Infused Gin, Orgeat, Lemon Juice and Pink Grapefruit - and the Old Fashioned Plum Daquiri - Appleton Estate V/X Rum, OVD Demerara Rum, Plum, Lime, Maple Syrup and Plum Bitters. If nothing on the menu takes your fancy, the professional bar staff can even make a bespoke cocktail for you. Looking for more than just cocktails? They are also offering a special 5 course meal with bellini from 6:30pm for £55 (find the menu here); paired with soulful, jazz music and they’re delicious cocktails, you're guaranteed a New Year’s Eve you’ll never forget!

For another taste of sophistication, head over to Alvar Bar at Hotel La Tour. Serving up classic cocktails such as Cosmopolitan, Daquiri, and Vodka Martini to name a few, and with prices ranging from £6.50-£8, you’ll be able to see the New Year in with style. Reserve a VIP area for £20 per person and receive complimentary nibbles, or for £85 you can dine in their Aalto Restaurant with a delicious six course meal and champagne on arrival. Entertainment is being provided by singer Adam Chandler, as well as a disco to dance your way through to midnight. [Editor's note: home of the Wilson Espresso, named after Brum Fave's very own cinema geek, Tim Wilson. Ask for it!]

If you fancy a change and want to head out of the city centre, why not go to The Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter? From 8pm they’re hosting a night of music, dancing and cocktails. With no entry fee all night (a rarity on New Year’s Eve!), this is the perfect night out as it leaves more money to spend on their delicious cocktails. Play it safe with a classic Mojito, try the interesting sounding Gypsy Rose Lee, or pick a selection of their quirky Shot-Tails (I like the sound of the Peanut Butter Jelly and Jam Doughnuts ones!). As an added bonus, they’re giving away a free glass of their NYE punch to anyone who wearing a tash, silly hat or crazy glasses too! Also serving food until 8pm, get here early to sample something from their new American Diner style menu, which features tasty sounding burgers and hot dogs with various tempting toppings (pulled pork is always a winner!).

If you want to start the celebrations early, then head over to The Jekyll and Hyde from 5pm for their exciting and quirky New Year's Eve Eat Me Drink Me High Tea, featuring gin tasting and gin-inspired tea party food. Alternatively, visit from 8pm for their Gin Parlour Style celebrations. Further information can be found here.

Wishing you a very happy new year!

By Taylah Catlow who can be contacted by my twitter @taylahc25 and on her blog.

Christmas Cocktails in Birmingham

With just a week to go until the big day, Christmas festivities are well and truly underway. And what better way to join in on the celebrations than with some Christmas themed cocktails at one of the many cocktail bars we have here in Birmingham?

On the 18th and 19th Island Bar are hosting "What Would Beyonce Do?", a night of stand-up comedy from Luisa Omielan, with tickets at only £10 on the door or £8 in advance. Personally I can't think of a better combination than cocktails and comedy, and I think it's guaranteed to be a fantastic sell-out night! More details and ticket info on the Island Bar website.

If you can't make this, definitely visit Island Bar over the festive period for some delicious cocktails. I can recommend their Pina Colada and Aloha cocktails which are available from their upstairs Tiki Bar on Friday and Saturday nights, making it the perfect way to start the weekend.

Over in the Colmore Business District we have the popular gin parlour The Jekyll and Hyde. Stay downstairs in Mr Hyde's Main Bar for cocktails in sweet jars (their Love Heart cocktail is to die for!), sharing cocktails in mini bathtubs, and a selection of cocktails at only £4 between 4-7pm and all day Saturday. Or head upstairs to Dr Jekyll's Gin Parlour for gin cocktails and the exciting Eat Me Drink Me Gin and Food Fusion menu. I'll be heading here before Christmas to try out their festive menu which includes Hot Buttered Rum and Gingle Bells cocktail, both flavoured with apple juice, maple syrup, butter and festive spices, and a Figgy Pudding cocktail of pear vodka, pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice, plum bitters and fig syrup. These seasonal flavours are guaranteed to take you back to your favourite Christmas memories!

Visit Bodega on Bennett's Hill and try out one of their seasonal offerings like the Fruta Festiva special for only £5 - a delicious blend of popular Christmas flavours with cinnamon, cherry, almond, orange, Olmeca Blanco tequila, apple juice and cranberry juice. And if none of the cocktails take your fancy, they're also serving up Peruvian Mulled Wine; get it here instead of the Christmas Market if you can stay out of the cold, plus you won't have to pay a deposit for your glass either!! For more info, check out their Festive menu. 

Ditch your normal Christmas Eve pub trip and head over to the Jewellery Quarter to The Church Inn who are hosting "Quizmas Eve" - a festive filled night of cocktails and a pub quiz starting at 8:30pm, and at only £1 to enter it's the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve. Have the night off from cooking too and get there early to sample their Southern American themed food menu. 

With so many venues to choose from, a Christmas cocktail bar crawl is the perfect way to celebrate the festive season with friends, family and work colleagues this year!

By Taylah Catlow - who can be contacted via Twitter @taylahc25 and on her blog

Photos: Brum Faves except 'Love Heart', Taylah Catlow.